Anyone who knows me knows that 1. I LOVE to eat and 2. I LOVE, LOVE, L-O-V-E fall. The cozy sweaters, crisp autumn air and changing leaves just melt my heart and put me in my feels. As a matter of fact, the first thing I do when I get home from work is light up all the candles in the house (yes, literally every candle I can find) and put on my comfiest sweater and leggings. Truth be told, I am typing this post from my couch while wearing my fluffiest robe and sipping on some hot coffee. But it isn't just the comfy vibes that make fall my favorite season, it's the food as well. It's the time of year when all of my favorite comfort foods make their highly anticipated return into my life.
Now, comfort foods get a bad rap for being 'unhealthy'. However, as a dietitian and lover of healthy (but delicious) food, I challenge myself every year to modify classic fall comfort foods so that they are healthy but still satisfy all my fall cravings. How I typically go about this is by thinking of my favorite foods and then determining what ingredients I can modify.
Let's use hash brown casserole (drool) as an example. The traditional recipe calls for frozen hash browns, sour cream, cheddar cheese, cornflakes, cream of chicken soup and butter. Starting with the hash browns- depending on how much time (and patience) you have, peeling and shredding fresh potatoes would be the healthiest choice as there are guaranteed to be no additives. However, using frozen hash browns isn't necessarily bad! My recommendation for this would be to check the nutrition label and opt for hash browns with no added seasoning. The big concern here is the sodium content. Check the nutrition label and ingredient list. If the ingredient list is practically a novel-you may want to try another brand. Also, avoid hash browns that have seasoning already added (you can add your own seasoning later on). Moving on to sour cream. I absolutely love the light sour cream from ALDI. It has significantly less fat and calories than regular sour cream. Another option would be to be use plain greek yogurt. Again, with the cheddar cheese you can choose a reduced fat cheese to save some calories and fat. Canned goods and soups are notoriously packed with tons and tons of sodium, so if this is a concern for you I would recommend looking for a low sodium cream of chicken soup. To be perfectly honest, I normally forgo the cornflakes altogether, but another option would be to use slivered almonds to top your casserole. As far as butter goes, I normally use margarine instead. However, it is important to understand that not all margarine is created equal. I always, always, ALWAYS check the label on margarine. Aside from checking the nutrition facts, I also check the ingredient list, specifically for the words 'hydrogenated oil' and/or 'partially hydrogenated oil' AKA trans fats.
This is just one example of how you can make a comfort classic a little bit healthier. One thing I do want to mention is the fact that comfort foods are called comfort foods for a reason- they are meant to be comforting and enjoyable. It is important that you enjoy your food, which means that you shouldn't be stressed over making everything that you eat healthy but instead maybe try to tweak recipes you love to make them healthier. However, I do believe that you can absolutely enjoy the classic recipe in moderation without guilt. I am the first to admit that I enjoy many, many foods that are likely high in fat, calories etc. totally guilt free. BUT, I do hold myself accountable and enjoy these things in moderation.
Thank you for reading and please do not hesitate to reach out with questions/concerns and most of all- HAPPY FALL!